Greek-American Stories: Curing Kipreos

Kipreos came early to Dixon’s that Sunday, looking pale and distressed. He explained, “I awoke yesterday with a pounding in my chest. I never had that before. Is it serious,” He asked no one in particular. Dimos, nodding, said, “it could be.” John asked, “when was the last time you saw a doctor?”  Kipreos blinked, “last time I saw a doctor was when I applied for my job at the hotel. That was ten years ago. But, I have healthcare benefits.”

“Then, the smart thing to do is to see a doctor,” Dimos insisted. Kipreos appeared anxious. “I don’t know. Suppose they find something?”

“That’s why you go to a doctor, Kipreos – to find out if there’s something wrong,” John impressed on him. Yiannis waved his hand, “It’s probably indigestion.” George set his coffee down, “without those health benefits it would cost a fortune! Look! We’ll go with you. Won’t we, guys?” They agreed, unanimously.

Monday found the five in an office on Seventh Avenue where a nurse asked Kipreos:

“Where are you from?”

Kipreos said, “Cyprus.”

She looked up, questioningly. “I mean, where are you from NOW?”

“Fifty-sixth Street and Eighth Avenue.”

“What do you do?”

“I work!”

Growing impatient, she asked, pointedly, “I mean what kind of work you do?”

“He works as a pastry chef,” responded Dimos, patiently.

She got up and spoke, privately, to the doctor, explaining, “he may be difficult. He’s accompanied by a group.” The doctor patted her shoulder, “Don’t worry, Nurse Crachet! He’s a patient. That’s what’s important!”

After answering thirty more questions he was told to undress. “We’re going to prepare you for a stress test,” said Nurse Crachet. Wires were attached to various parts of his body that were connected to a black box, similar to those dug up when an airplane crashes. Then, he stepped on a ramp. It began slowly, gradually moving to minimal speed while the nurse watched a monitor. Then it went faster – until Kipreos started running. He ran and ran, the machine registering his heartbeat and blood pressure. After a while, exhausted, he stepped off and got dressed. Finally, the group got to see the doctor, who looked, amazingly, like Boris Karloff.

Dimos explained to the doctor that they were there to make sure he understood the results. Sitting in chairs around the desk, the doctor muttered, “hmmmm.”

Kipreos paled at that utterance. Dimos bent and told him in Greek, “don’t worry. All doctors make that noise. They learn it in medical school.”

“Hmmmm,” the doctor said again.

Kipreos’s stress mounted. “Everything looks all right but…we should do more tests.”

“But…” Kipreos stuttered,” If – if everything looks alright, why do I ha – have to do- do more tests?” The doctor looked up from the graph. “We have to make sure.”  “But, if everything is all right…” he pleaded, beginning to sweat. The doctor, tired of the bantering, said, “it’s up to you!”

“It is?” With that, KIpreos smiled, thanked the doctor and got up as the doctor said, “of course, there is a possibility that those palpitations could happen again. This time…who knows? But, like I said, it’s up to you.” Kipreos’ knees weakened. “What…kind of tests, doctor?” Looking at his patient like a judge passing sentence. “CAT Scan, MRI, Angiogram and…” John and Dimos caught Kipreos just before he landed on the floor of the office. The doctor, wondering if he’d lose the patient before he’d done anything, said, “but, like I said, it’s up to you.”

Kipreos began to revive. Dimos asked the doctor, “in your opinion, is his condition something to worry about?” The doctor shook his head, “No!” Thanking him, they started for the door when the doctor said, “not immediately! But, there’s always the chance that…”

They stopped, abruptly. George, annoyed at the doctor’s indirectness, asked, point blank, “should he be making out his will anytime soon? Yes? Or, no?”

“No!” said the man in white. Yiannis asked, “should he pay his bill in advance?” “No! It can be mailed after considering his health insurance.” They nearly jammed the doorway in their hasty retreat, the doctor reiterated, “but, I can’t guarantee…”

They pushed Kipreos out until they got to the sidewalk. Leaning against the building, his hand on his chest, Kipreos said, “I have palpitations!” Dimos hailed a cab. “I know just the place” – they all went to Dixon’s for coffee.


This article is part of a continuing series dealing with reports of Greek POWs in Asia Minor in the Thessaloniki newspaper, Makedonia in July 1936.

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